This video from HubSpot is humorous, but useful in that it displays the difference between inbound and outbound (or pull vs. push) marketing efforts.
By utilizing a company blog, social media, email marketing and other such efforts to distribute valuable content to a targeted audience (your ideal customers) you will be better positioned to be found online and create online conversions whereby you're capturing valuable prospect information in return for offering valuable content to that prospect. Thus, you're building a pipeline of prospects that you can continue to nurture with valuable content until they're ready to buy.
For the purposes of our video, let me ask, when was the last time you looked something up in the phone book vs. Googling it?
Essentially, that's how inbound marketing works--create content, boosting SEO, get found online, create conversions, nurture prospects until they buy, improve the process and start again.
So I was at the grocery store the other day buying a bag of potato chips (I know, a healthy snack). I was looking for potato chips with ridges or waves, whatever you want to call--wrinkles.
I found two brands Ruffles Potato Chips and Lays Wavy Potato Chips. To me, they’re the same chip--the quality is the same, the flavor is the same--for all intense and purposes they might as well be the exact same chip. So, because, in my mind, the product is the same and either will adequately satisfy my potato chip craving I look less at which brand I choose and focus on price--which one is cheaper?
In this case the Ruffles were about $0.40 more than the Lays, so I went with the Lays. The idea of differentiating on price alone for a product that is in demand is essentially a commodity.
Perception is often reality, to the customer
My potato chip story illustrates the consumer mindset when purchasing a product or service--the consumer perception of your product is the only perception that really matters, not yours. But, what’s interesting is with the way you communicate your brand messaging and position your brand, products and services you can help guide customers toward the perception you would like them to have. The way you communicate your brand and educate consumers about your products and services can have the effect of justifying the pricing you set, even if it’s higher than your competitor’s. This is possible when your customers no longer see your products or services as a commodity that they could get elsewhere with the same amount of satisfaction for less.
In the potato chip story, had Ruffles provided more compelling messaging that raised its value in my perception of their brand and product, I may have shelled out the extra $0.40 for their chips.
Think about your own business
Do you offer products/services that can adequately satisfy a customer’s needs just as easily as your competition? Is price really the only difference between your product and your competitor’s in the eyes of your target customer? If so, you need to think about building more value into your offering and communicate that value to your potential customers so you can line up what you want their perception to be with what their actual perception is.
How do build more value?
One way, is to write out a list of features and benefits of your product/service compared to the features and benefits of your top competitor’s. From there, look for similarities and differences. Highlight the differences. If the differences are positive, giving you an advantage over your competition, find a way to emphasize that in your marketing messages. It’s also a good idea to cross reference your list with a poll from your current customers asking them why they chose to do business with you over the competition. By completing those two exercises you should be able to uncover a few differences that can be competitive advantages for you/your business.it.
It seems that the internet boils services, and most business models, down to three simple areas of value (as described by Seth Godin’s recent blog post, The one who isn’t easily replaced): “...be better, be different or be cheaper. And the last is no fun.”
That last one will drive you out of business, so I would suggest avoiding it. The other two are where the largest opportunities are. Godin’s blog post was referring to the fact that with the internet, musicians, freelancers, solopreneurs and small businesses are better equipped, and connected, to be able to handle more of their own stunts--so to speak--to bring their products or services to market.
Thus, to stand out you, and/or your company, must be better than the competition. Perhaps you offer a better product, more efficient service, an easier-to-use service, maybe you save customers time, etc. Or, maybe you’re different. Maybe your product/service fulfills a common need in an uncommon way, or your product/service saves a business X amount of money compared to competition as proven by market research, etc. Now, if you do compete on price you’ll really want to justify offering a lower price than competitors. A lower price is not always equated to a quality product/service. Plus, if you compete by offering a lower price than competitors you’ll want to make certain you’re making up ground on volume or some additional revenue stream because that’s a difficult business model to maintain without being swallowed by a company willing to give away more for less (or free).
Probably the best advice is to be both better and different allowing you to justify higher prices than competitors, which will further the perception that you’re better. Hey, two out of three ain’t bad...besides the third option is likely to sink you before you get out of the gate...just a few thoughts to consider.
On my Resourceful Musician Blog I recently published a guest post.
What was great was that the content from the guest post came from someone reading and enjoying the blog, contacting me through the blog’s contact form, offering a personal note, an explanation and the guest post content for me to review.
What was nice about it, was that it was made easy for me to use the post as a guest post. Sure, if I didn’t think the content was fitting for my audience I could have kindly denied the guest posting request. However, my point is that the post was ready to go if I liked it and thought I could use it.
Guest blogging is a great way to build your own audience while often bringing your audience to a another blogger’s crowd.
If you’re interested in guest blogging as an audience growth strategy or if you would like others to be guest bloggers on your blog a nice community created to facilitate just that is MyBlogGuest.com. It’s a free online community where you can view guest blog posts that are ready to be published and introduce yourself to the author to ask permission to use the post, or you can write a post and offer it up for others to post on their blogs.
If you’re interested in blogging as a business strategy check out Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett’s book ProBlogger (amazon affiliate).
You know that phrase, ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ Well, marketing and brand communications often works like that. If you are out of sight from you prospect, you are likely out of their mind as well.
Often what happens is you come out strong with some great blog posts and as you get busy with other aspects of your business you just don’t make the time to post for a couple of weeks. You might lose some readers/subscribers because of it. Or you have a potential lead who signed up to download a valuable white paper you created almost two months ago and you still haven’t followed up with them. If they were interested when they opted-in they may no longer be interested--out of sight, out of mind.
The fact that you’re blogging regularly (at least once a week) means you should have content that you can use to keep in touch with prospects. As a way to nurture leads until they’re ready to buy, you can send them blog posts that you’ve written that may pertain to their interests/needs.
You may be thinking, “but they probably already read my blog post, why should I email it to them.” That’s not necessarily true. While you hope that everyone who ever has had any interest in a blog post you’ve written is reading every single post you publish, the truth is they may have only read the one post that was of interest to them. That means chances are they didn’t see the last post you published that you wrote with they’re specific needs in mind. However, even if they did read that post, sending it along again with a short personal note, like, ‘I had your company’s needs in mind when I wrote this post,’ is very effective in showing that you’re paying attention and that even if they weren’t thinking about you, you have them on your mind.
Building relationships take regular effort, put forth some effort today.
The Small Business Marketing Blog from Duct Tape Marketing just posted a blog called, The Selling System Technology Toolkit.
The post offers links to various resources to help make running your business and selling your products and services easier.
The post segments the kind of resources it’s referring to by what they’re good for. For example, tools that help you get found, tools that help you present, nurture leads, manage various transactions and measure and review your progress.
I also would like to add to the list a couple of my own suggestions...
www.slideshare.com – It’s a social media platform for sharing PowerPoint-type presentations and slide decks.
www.camstudio.org – If you’re going to use something like SlideShare to distribute useful slide presentations you may want to take it a step further and actually add audio commentary as you walk through your slide presentations. Cam Studio is a free open-source screen capture software. So, you can essentially create a pre-recorded webinar and distribute it on your website or on SlideShare, or YouTube, etc.
Leave a comment and let readers know what helpful resources you use.
Duct Tape Marketing book (Amazon affiliate)
Have you ever visited a really entertaining website for a service you were looking for, and it impressed you initially? You know what I’m talking about, those websites with the Flash animated intense motion graphics that initially suck you in and then transition you throughout the site with dynamic navigation.
Then when you come back to that website, because you want to reference something that you didn’t quite catch in your first visit, you become a bit annoyed with the fact that you have to wade through all that flashiness just to get to the content you’re seeking.
While on your initial visit you viewed the dynamic flashy nature of the website as impressive and quite entertaining, once past that experience on a return visit the site seems less helpful as a source for pertinent content because the site design and navigation is geared toward brand new visitors and not return visitors.
The ideal answer is likely a better balance of a site that has some flare to it and a site that has a clean design and functional user experience allowing the user to find what they’re looking for. However, if you’re going to err one way or another, I would suggesting erring on the side of simple, clean and functional. Flare and pizazz can always be added later, but if visitors arrive on your site and have trouble understanding the site, what your company does or how to find the information they’re seeking then no amount of entertaining motion graphics are going to convince that visitor to return and buy something from you.
Keep the information on your website/blogsite clear, concise and easy to find to communicate your company’s brand messages. If you can add some flash and entertainment value, great, but be sure a solid foundation is firmly in place first.
There is a definite branding value to writing blog comments on other well-read and well-respected blogs that you follow. Chances are good that you have a blog or two that you read regularly and view their authors as experts on the topic of which they write.
It’s likely that you’re not the only one who follows a particular blog because of the value received from reading it. So add value to the blogs you follow by adding a point or two in the comments section of the blog. Or share a scenario that’s pertinent to the blog topic...something that enhances the value or creates interesting discussion surrounding the original post.
The idea is that by offering comments that add value to a post by another well-known, and/or widely read blogger can not only help to enhance the blog on which you’re commenting, but expose you to that blogger and his/her audience. (Plus, for those readers interested in finding out more about you it gives them an opportunity to link back to your website.)
Here are some benefits of commenting on blogs:
So write value-adding comments. Feel free to offer your comments on this post.
Many marketing folks these days consider email, and email marketing to be “traditional marketing,” as opposed to “new marketing” like social media marketing and inbound marketing.
These less salesy, yet targeted emails (without company headers and flashy graphics) can be just as effective as a phone call. In fact, in a lot of ways this type of emailing is the new phone call.
I was just on an email marketing webinar yesterday, put on by BuzzBuilderPro.com, a lead generation marketing company. One great take-a-way from the webinar was using what BuzzBuilderPro called Article Marketing.
Essentially, the idea is that as you nurture potential sales leads via email, send them short notes periodically with links to articles that will likely be of value to the recipient. In this model, these emails serve as a way to keep at the top of your prospect’s mind as someone offering useful value without asking for anything in return and without an offer, a sales pitch or inundating them with your sales literature.
The idea is that when the prospect is ready to buy, or is simply ready to talk to your further about what you/your company have to offer, you will have built a relationship and some trust over time.
A lot of people do a similar thing with Twitter tweets and their Facebook status, but the difference is that by using email you are targeting a specific audience that is more 1 to 1, rather than 1 to many--it’s more personal.
Here’s an example:
I recently found this great article about Article Marketing that I thought you might find useful for yourself and your sales team. http://www.buzzbuilderpro.com/blog/item/article-marketing/articles-lead-nurturing
It’s short, sweet and to the point, and it provides value. I guarantee the recipient will also appreciate the brevity of the email, as everyone seems to get more than their fair share of emails these days.
It builds good-will and credibility for your brand. It’s a great idea to help nurture leads in a very simple way.
So, I was flipping through various radio stations as I was driving this morning, and I came across an interview with the rap/R&B/hip-hop producer and artist, Jeremih (pronounced Jer-a-my).
I’m definitely a sucker for artist interviews. I like to learn about the artist’s thoughts and intentions behind an album.
As I was listening to the interview I drew a strong parallel to blogging and business, and in some similar ways, blogging and business are just like the music industry. Here’s what I mean...Jeremih’s new album “All About You,” features other well-known artists like Ludacris, 50 Cent and others. Those big names allow Jeremih to communicate his brand with some leverage, capitalizing on the larger fan-base of those other, well-known, artists featured on Jeremih’s album. By Ludacris and 50 Cent agreeing to be featured on Jeremih’s album their fan-base is exposed to Jeremih, and essentially a positive endorsements is given for Jeremih’s album and music to the audiences of both Ludacris and 50 Cent.
In blogging and business a similar thing can happen. Think about posting guest blogs from other well-known bloggers in your industry, or asking if you could write a guest post for their blog--it’s at least worth asking, and the cross-pollination of audiences can be beneficial for both parties.
This sort of thing happens in other aspects of business, too--not just in blogging. For example, when your company builds a referral network with other companies to help each other out.
Say, you’re a lawyer working with small businesses and you often refer clients who need an accountant to a well-deserving accountant friend of yours who you trust and know does good work. Well, your client benefits because they’re getting a qualified referral from someone they trust, your accountant friend benefits because he/she is getting a qualified potential new client from a trusted source and you benefit by building more good-will with both your client and your accountant friend.
There are definitely advantages and opportunities when you expand your network of relationships. Be on the lookout for them and build positive reciprocal relationships to capitalize on them.
Learn more about Brand Communications and how to use it with your Inbound Marketing efforts